Astro Review 2016 – Part 1
On land, on sea and on the river – another great year at Astro
Every year seems to fly past faster than the previous year. Someone delivered a theory to me over Christmas that could well have some substance. He believes that as we get older it takes us longer to do things because we analyse things more now than when we were younger. Thus, we never to have enough time to do everything we intend to do in the time given leaving the impression that time is passing by at an ever-increasing rate. It sounded to me like a reasonable theory and now I am aware of it I will be looking out for the signs in the future.
Maybe it is no surprise then that I cannot believe we are already into our 33rd year. Throughout our history Astro has focused on providing innovative and reliable services to our customers. That has always been at our core. I know I have mentioned this before but since 2013 we have undergone a significant positive transformation and I am more excited now about the future than I was when we first launched Astro back in 1984, and I didn’t think that was possible. 2016 was a milestone year for us and the first of many more to come.
In the meantime, this two-part blog is a round up featuring some of the highlights of 2016. The first part features company highlights and the second features some of the projects and events I was involved with personally.
ITP Corporate Associate
In March Astro were invited to become an ITP Corporate Associate. Corporate Associates play a vital role in the structure of the ITP; helping the ITP to help the industry. This was a natural progression for us as the ITP play a vital role in the development of our apprentices through their national apprenticeship scheme.
In March 2016 Ryan Jones joined us as an apprentice working with our Service Desk team. Ryan can to us through the ITP Apprenticeship scheme. Throughout the year Ryan has worked very hard and has consistently achieved top marks in his college assessments. Ryan has become a valuable member of the team. We are planning on opening more apprenticeship opportunities this year.
Website refresh and blog
Earlier this year I completely refreshed the Astro web site. This was a reasonably big task as there are over 100 pages on the web site, including the blog and news.
In addition to this we published 51 blogs some updated guides which amounted to over 80,000 words which is not far short of a novel (unless you are J R R Tolkien). Subjects included broadband, mobile networks, healthcare, sailing and even a rugby tour. We intend to continue throughout 2017 with around one blog a week.
Making a difference
In June Astro were top fund raiser for the second year running at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability Row Hard event. Our brave and intrepid rowers fought hard to gain ground to be among the top three but alas we were up against formidable opposition. It is some consolation that we raised the most money as that is what the event is all about, raising money for specialist wheelchairs to give someone access to some quality of life.
I know I have mentioned several times before in my blogs and make no apology as this is a subject very close to my heart after my daughter Karen spent six months in the RHN recovering from a brain injury. Karen and I will never forget what the RHN did for her and we are still regular visitors going back to see the staff who were our family for half of 2015.
Camp Cando is another charity very close to our hearts at Astro. It is a small charity providing an annual holiday for some amazing young people with a range of complex special and behavioural needs. Camp Cando also affords the parents and carers of these very special young people a vital respite break.
In August, our MD Steve Hodges took some time out of the office to spend some time with Camp Cando at an activity centre in Kent. Camp Cando is an incredible grass roots charity run by volunteers and funded entirely by donations. Astro has supported Camp Cando with donations and volunteers for several years and will continue to do so in throughout 2017.
On the 16th of October Mr. Hodges ran the Maidstone half marathon to raise the much-needed funds for Camp Cando to run this year. Steve raised over £3,700.00 for one of our favourite charities and one thing we do know is that every single penny will be very well invested.
This year we held our two annual bowls championships – Under 25s and under 18s Astro Cup, plus the Under 25s tournament in the Great Yarmouth Festival of Bowls. Over the years we have had several competitors go on to play for their County and the Country. The dedication and skill of these young sportsmen and women never ceases to amaze me.
This year we hosted 30 places at our annual Sir Henry Cooper Classic Boxing night at the London Lancaster Hotel in aid of the Bud Flanagan Leukaemia Fund. Professor Ray Powles announced that in recent months there had been a real breakthrough in the treatment of Leukaemia. He added that he had not used the term ‘breakthrough’ in this context before so this was a significant development. A development that would not have been possible without consistent funding over the years. The BFLF committee presented £25,000 to Leukaemia research at the event.
IT Directors Forum
The 2016 IT Directors Forum was one of the best for Astro. The exploits of the Astro team are well documented in our three-part blog published in May. Since then we have had many follow up meetings and have commenced on several projects as a direct result of the IT Directors Forum. We will be back in May this year and look forward to catching up with all our IT Directors Forum friends.
The Astro Company Barbecue
Our annual staff barbecue is in danger of taking on legendary status. Following on from last year’s Australian Outback theme with crocodile steaks and bug challenges. This year we had a German Bier Fest theme with feathered Tyrol hats, bier steins and Bavarian Oompah music followed by some live music. Although, some say the live music was still in the ‘sound of The Eagles’, I am not sure how this could be as we had the extended Astro ensemble (two team members and my two grandsons) performing this year on backing vocals, bodhran and tambour (yeah I know they are not traditional German instruments, but nor did they feature in songs of The Eagles). A great time was had by all and this year we avoided being eaten alive by the local midges. Maybe that was the friends and relations of the Outback bugs biting back?
IT Directors Forum Survivors Event
In September 2016 Astro held our first IT Directors Forum survivors event. For some years now we have hosted a successful Thursday evening drinks reception in the Crow’s Nest bar of the Aurora or Arcadia as a networking opportunity for our IT Directors Forum friends. Rather than wait for the Forum to come around in May 2017 we thought we would host another drinks reception in September 2016. After a failed attempt to persuade P&O to dock the Arcadia in Dartford Creek for an evening, we had to set our sights a little lower.
Fortunately, not too much lower as we managed to secure the Bridge of the Tattershall Castle. And so it was on the evening of 29 September 2016 a large group of IT Directors Forum veterans assembled on The Bridge of the Tattershall Castle and the IT Directors Forum Survivors event was born! A very impressive venue with spectacular views across the Thames with the authentic swaying our guests are used to in the Crow’s Nest on the Arcadia. Our guests loved it and said it was the perfect location for an IT Directors Forum Survivors reunion.
Dartford & Gravesham Business Awards
On the 25 November 2016, the Astro entourage of 14, comprising a cross section of to the team plus some friends of Astro sat waiting in anticipation when the announcer said. “In first place… Astro Communications”. To say we were amazed is an understatement. With the awards done the Astro team did what we do best and partied the night away. An amazing night and an amazing end to the year.
The second part of this blog reporting on my personal highlights of 2016 will be posted in the next week.